Entry Price: $16,950
Price as Tested: $21,560

This week, we’re driving the sixth-generation 2018 Hyundai Elantra, delivered in Eco trim and assuring consumers 40-mpg highway in non hybrid, fully internal combustion motivation. Most notable is our tester’s final price of just $21,560. Eco, by the way, stands for economy.

This sixth-generation Elantra boasts some nice attributes following its compact class debut in 1990, when Hyundais were way different and much less of a threat to put a major dent into American car sales. The 1990 Elantra rode on a compact dimension 98.4-inch wheelbase while today’s “near mid-size” Elantra travels on a 106-inch plus wheelbase and is more in line with the demands of modern auto building principles. Hyundai also corrected many early mechanical/build woes to the point where today their cars are recommended by some of the biggest consumer associations in America.

Add in Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and the fact that the Elantra is built in Montgomery, Alabama, few compact cars out there can compare if you seek a low cost, American built automobile. Considering long term return-on-investment (ROI) and positive owner satisfaction ratings, Elantra Eco’s price is almost too good to believe.

Elantra Eco debuted in 2017 and still takes direct aim at consumers who want 40-plus highway MPG coupled with a price that won’t break the bank. In Elantra’s case, the compact is offered in six distinct models, starting at a low of just $16,350 for the manual transmission SE. In succession are Elantra SEL at $18,850; Elantra Value at $19,850, our tester Eco at $20,550; Elantra Sport at $21,800 and top line Elantra Limited at $22,100. (Delivery adds $885 to these prices along with any options one might choose).

Under the hood sits an Eco specific and newly designed 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 128-horsepower and an impressive 156 lb. ft of torque. Not only will this engine accelerate well, it can deliver even better than the listed 40 MPG EPA highway number and provide at least 32 MPG in the city. A 70-mile trip to a car show at a nearby mall resulted in 41.8 MPG, more than the EPA 40 MPG highway average listed on the price sticker. When it comes to passing, we put the turbo 1.4 through several passing moves which were easy to accomplish and overall you can expect zero to 60 mph in about 7.8 to 8.2 seconds.

The transmission in our Eco is also Eco specific and different than the other Elantras. Not to be confused with a CVT unit, Eco offers up an impressive seven-speed Shiftronic dual clutch automatic that helps the highway and city fuel mileage numbers. The other Elantra siblings come with the bigger 2.0-liter fuel injected engine and rely on a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual.

Elantra Eco boasts Hyundai’s new aerodynamic exterior and revamped interior, although the Eco interior is more down-to-earth and void of some of the upper class amenities you’ll receive in more expensive Elantras. However, even though our tester came with just one option, a $125 carpeted floor mat package, I never once felt the Eco was a stripped down, cheap car.

The cabin’s standard fare includes a seven-inch touchscreen main display with knob controlled six-speaker SiriusXM Satellite stereo system with HD radio, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise, dual power heated/fold away side mirrors, push-button start, power windows and door locks, dual-zone air conditioning, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth hands-free phone compatibility and even a hands-free trunk open feature. Heated front seats you ask? Surprisingly YES.

Safety features are top notch, as Eco features everything that makes a car safer in our modern day era. Included are all of the “higher tech” features like electronic stability and traction controls, seven airbags, four-wheel ABS brakes, LED daytime running lamps, rear view safety camera, blind spot detection, brake assist, rear cross traffic, lane change assist and more at no extra cost. Interesting is that the EPA rates this car a mid-size instead of a compact for its economy ratings and the Government Safety Ratings came in at a very good overall four-star rating. (If you want smart cruise, emergency forward braking, etc., it’s only available on the Elantra Premium).

Underneath, Elantra’s independent suspension allows for good handling characteristics thanks to the coil over MacPherson front strut and rear torsion beam setup. This combo delivers a decent ride when united with quality Nexen N-Priz easy roll 15-inch tires on nice alloy wheels.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, 5.3 inch ground clearance, 2,857 lb. curb weight, 14.4 cu. ft. of cargo space, 14.0 gallon fuel tank and 34.78 ft. turning radius.

In summary, it’s difficult not to recommend the 2018 Hyundai Elantra Eco. It could be the best compact car out there that delivers hybrid-like fuel mileage, turbo power, great warranty and impressive design aesthetics … at an amazingly low price. Your Hyundai dealer is waiting to explain even more about the Elantra Eco and it siblings and also a current $2,500 buyer incentive.

Likes: Outstanding MPG, lots of features, near mid-size dimensions at a compact price.
Dislikes: Rear drum brakes, highest-tech safety only available on Premium.

Next Week: 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.